Stephen Watson, President and CEO – WWII Museum
GNOEA met via Zoom on Tuesday November 17, 2020 for organization updates and to learn more from Stephen Watson about the internationally recognized National WWII Museum. Stephen provided an overview of its challenges and future plans for this national treasure.
Stephen J. Watson, a nationally recognized non-profit leader, who has played an increasing role in strategic decisions and daily operations at the WWII Museum for the past 17 years. A native of Scotland who relocated to Louisiana in 1994, Watson earned his BS and MBA degrees at Nicholls State University before entering the non-profit sector with WWNO public radio in New Orleans. Watson, the grandson of a WWII Royal Air Force pilot, joined the institution then known as the National D-Day Museum in 2002 and launched a highly successful national membership campaign that today includes 160,000 members – the largest of any museum in the country. He was promoted to Vice President & COO in 2007 and Executive Vice President in 2014.
Stephen started by saying that it is a privilege to walk through the doors knowing the responsibility of being a steward for the story told thru the lens of the American experience. WWII was the most important event in history in its fight for freedom, democracy and human rights all of which has impacted our lives today. In 1990, founders Dr. Stephen Ambrose and Nick Mueller, history professor at University of New Orleans had the idea to start a small D-Day Museum in New Orleans that would build on a collection of 650 oral stories told by WWII veterans. Fast forward to June 2000 and the 56th anniversary of D-Day when they celebrated the grand opening of a much larger than expected museum. During this time, Ted Stevens, an Alaskan Senator and WWII veteran, who had lobbied to have a WWII Museum built in Washington, told Dr. Ambrose that the whole story of WWII should be told and not just D-Day. Sen. Stevens and another veteran then secured congressional authorization for the museum in 2004. Congress recognized it as a national WWII Museum which provided a foundation to build a national base of support and board to solidify the standing as a WWII Museum.
Shortly after the Museum opened the effects of Hurricane Katrina significantly impacted the museum economically forcing them to think differently about their mission and relevance without visitors. They pivoted to investing in education with distance learning to high schools and found new ways to raise funds. Expansions were scaled back and it took four years for visitors to return.
2006 – 2019 were years of growth with the latest addition being the Hall of Democracy and Higgins Hotel and Conference Center that opened in 2019. A team of top talent is used to bring world class exhibits such as Beyond All Boundaries, Road to Berlin and Road to Victory. The Museum ranked 3rd in 2018 and 8th in the world by Trip Advisor.
Most recently, the impact of COVID-19 epidemic forced them to close for two months, layoff employees, cut salaries and pause projects. Future projects include: the Bollinger Canopy of Peace, a pavilion and parade grounds that will be illuminated at night is scheduled to open early 2021. A 360 degree nighttime Expression of America sound and light show is projected to open in less than two years. On December 3, 2020, they will break ground for the last permanent building called the Liberation Pavilion with post war stories to open in 2 years.
New Member Review:
The Board has voted on the membership application of the following potential member.
Members have until November 20, 2020 to submit an objection due to conflict of interest:
Cynthia L. Widlitze, Owner / Sales Coach
Guest of: Lola Lass, Adeeta Staffing
New Member Recruitment: If you have a prospect, please have them connect with Julie Couret at [email protected]
A list of open classifications can be found here.
Everyone should have received an invoice for Q4 Dues – Electronic payment is preferred. Some people are mailing payments to Susan’s home. Please update your GNOEA mailing address to P.O. Box 113478, Metairie, LA 70011. The address is also on the website.
The first in person breakfast meeting will be held on January 12th at the Walnut Room, Lakefront Airport (8am -9am)
Upcoming Meeting Schedule
November 24 – OFF – Happy Thanksgiving
December 1 – Zoom – John Zollinger, Home Bank – PPP Forgiveness | Board Meeting to Follow
December 8 – GNOEA Holiday Party (6-9pm) at The Kamp, an outdoor venue, catered by Messina’s and free for members and a guest. RSVP by December 1st
December 15 – Zoom, TBA
December 22 – OFF
December 29 – OFF
January 5 – OFF
January 12 – The Walnut Room, Lakefront Airport (8am-9am) January 19 – Zoom – Ed McCloskey, Attorney – Business Succession Planning
Please login and view the Calendar for meeting login details.
Please contact Brien Lundin, President-Elect / Programs Chair if you would like to be added to the presentation schedule or would like to recommend a speaker.